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Back to Milk and Sports Nutrition

Chocolate Milk and Post Exercise Recovery

Elizabeth (Beth) Mansfield, MSc, RD, CEP

Sports Dietitian and CSEP-Certified Exercise Physiologist, Peak Performance (, Ottawa

Although there is no scientific basis for the commonly held belief that adults require eight to 10 glasses of water daily, liquids do need to be consumed before, during and after physical activity to support adequate hydration and replace fluid and electrolytes lost through perspiration. While water is usually sufficient to meet hydration needs during workouts lasting an hour or less, beverages containing carbohydrate are more appropriate for training of longer duration since re-fueling and post-workout recovery need to be addressed.

The science of optimal recovery

Much of the scientific work in optimizing recovery post workout has focused on the use of experimental solutions prepared in a laboratory. Unfortunately, these solutions miss out on the combination of nutrients in food that work in concert to improve the health as well as the performance of a body undergoing the rigours of training.

Clinical sports nutrition research continues to show that chocolate milk has the potential to aid active men and women in their quest for losing excess body fat and gaining muscle mass, and to improve athletes’ refueling, rehydration, and their subsequent performance.Karp and colleagues highlighted chocolate milk’s potential for maintaining exercise performance in subsequent bouts of exhaustive endurance exercise when used as a post-workout recovery drink.2 Similarly, Thomas et al. recently demonstrated that chocolate milk is a substantially more effective recovery aid after prolonged exercise in preparation for subsequent exercise than two commercially available sports drinks.3 Shirreffs et al. also showed that milk has the potential to be more effective for post-exercise replacement of perspiration losses and maintenance of hydration than sports drinks of similar concentration of carbohydrate or water,4 while Wilkinson and colleagues found that young men engaged in resistance training could achieve greater gains in muscle protein by drinking milk versus equivalent amounts of a soy beverage.5

In addition to being about 85% water, chocolate milk supplies a carbohydrate-protein combination that maximizes post workout recovery and rehydration. Furthermore, it contains nutrients such as sodium and potassium to restore electrolyte balance as well as calcium and vitamin D to promote overall muscle, bone, and cardiovascular health.

The R5 Approach to Optimal Recovery
For optimal recovery, encourage the fitness enthusiasts in your practice to drink chocolate milk and to follow the R5 approach:

  • Re-energize muscles with carbohydrate rich foods such as breads and cereals, fruits, chocolate milk and fruit flavoured yogurts for maximum energy
  • Re-vitalize muscles with antioxidant vitamins and minerals found in brightly coloured vegetables and fruits
  • Re-build bones and muscles with protein and other essential nutrients found in milk products, meats and alternatives
  • Re-oxygenate muscles with iron found in meats, leafy green vegetables, fortified grains and cereals
  • Re-hydrate with water and other fluids, before, during, and after physical activity.


  • Milk and chocolate milk play an important role before, during and after strenuous physical activity.
  • Drinking milk after resistance training promotes gains in muscle protein, which is important in repairing skeletal muscle damage caused by exercise.
  • Drinking milk post workout contributes to greater losses of body fat and gains in muscle mass than soy beverages or sport drinks.


  1. Hartman JW et al. Consumption of fat-free fluid milk after resistance exercise promotes greater lean mass accretion than does consumption of soy or carbohydrate in young, novice, male weightlifters. Am J Clin Nutr 2007;86:373-381.
  2. Karp J et al. Chocolate milk as a post-exercise recovery aid. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab 2006;16:78-91.
  3. Thomas K et al. Improved endurance capacity following chocolate milk consumption compared with 2 commercially available sports drinks. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab 2009;34:78-82.
  4. Shirreffs SM et al. Milk as an effective post-exercise rehydration drink. Br J Nutr 2007;98:173-180.
  5. Wilkinson SB et al. Consumption of fluid skim milk promotes greater muscle protein accretion after resistance exercise than does consumption of an isonitrogenous and isoenergetic soy protein beverage. Am J Clin Nutr 2007;85:1031-1040.

Keywords: chocolate milk , health studies

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